UN Climate Action Summit: Governments must take action now

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

On September 23rd, world leaders will answer UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call to come to UN headquarters for a Climate Action Summit with “concrete, realistic plans” to fight the climate emergency. The Summit will provide a platform for governments, the private sector, civil society, local authorities and other international organizations to develop ambitious solutions and make commitments that help countries adapt and build resilience to the climate emergency. 

As the UN has reported, “the last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990.” The life threatening impacts of climate change are already taking their toll on lives and livelihoods around the globe. Climate-related disasters accounted for about 90% of the 7,255 major disasters between 1998 and 2017, most of them floods and storms. Yet adaptation financing is severely underfunded and according to a WRI report, the developing world will require $140 to $300 billion a year by 2050 to adapt to climate change. Moreover, it is critical that the funding reaches the local levels, where it is needed most. 

An opportunity to take action

The UN Climate Action Summit is an important opportunity for all stakeholders  governments and civil society alike – to make concrete commitments and develop strong action plans to try to address these gaps. Building off of our work in flood prone and disaster-affected communities around the world, the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance (ZFRA) urges governments at the UN Climate Action Summit to implement the following recommendations

1. Increase funding: Developed countries must provide a clear blueprint towards achieving the $100 billion in climate finance they committed for developing countries and that at least 50% of these funds go to adaptation.

2. Funding where it matters: The commitments by bilateral and multilateral donors, including the Green Climate Fund, and by national governments should include detailed plans for increasing funding for local levels and how funds will reach the most vulnerable populations.

3. Implement risk reduction policies: Governments should commit to aligning existing laws and policies and institutional structures across sectors, systems, and geographic levels and integrate new risk reduction measures into their development plans.

4. Partner with communities to understand and build resilience: We urge national governments to focus on ex ante responses and work with local communities to better understand their barriers to building flood resilience, looking beyond physical and financial capital.

5. Build in accountability mechanisms to commitments: The UN, multilaterals, and governments must agree to accountability mechanisms for previous and new commitments so that this Summit moves beyond words and results in concrete actions that benefit communities.

The importance of accountability

Governments, business and civil society have an important opportunity at the Climate Summit to make commitments that can address arguably the greatest challenge of our generation. For the Summit to be more than just a ‘talking shop’, we need to hold ourselves and others accountable to the commitments that we make. The upcoming COP 25 in Chile will be an important milestone to ensure that dialogue from this month’s Summit translates into concrete action. Too many lives and communities around the world depend on it. 

For more details on Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance commitments and recommendations for the Climate Action Summit see our two page Event Brief. 

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